10 April 2024

Fei Long Hua Dao (飛龍化刀)

Drawing of a Fei Long Hua Dao rocket, from 'Huo Long Jing (《火龍經》)'.
Fei Long Hua Dao (飛龍化刀, lit. 'Flying dragon turning into knives') is a highly unusual and viciously designed—if not terribly effective—rocket. Recorded in famous Ming military treatise Huo Long Jing (火龍經), this is a one zhang five fen long spear-sized rocket with a two chi long bamboo rocket motor as well as two Du Huo (毒火) poison smoke-cum-incendiary warheads, which by itself isn't anything unusual. What set Fei Long Hua Dao apart from other rockets is that it is fitted with secondary rockets designed to be engaged at the same time as poison smoke warheads detonate. Known as Hua Dao Tong (化刀筒, lit. 'Knife-changing tube'), these stickless secondary rockets are two chi five cun long gunpowder-filled tubes fitted with three poisoned blades on both ends, and are said to be able to cover an area dozens of zhang wide, literally shredding anything they hit.

Long Fei Hua Dao Zhen (龍飛化刀陣)

Layout of Long Fei Hua Dao Zhen, from 'Huo Long Jing (《火龍經》)'.
The author of Huo Long Jing also created a military formation for the rocket, called Long Fei Hua Dao Zhen (龍飛化刀陣, lit. 'Dragon flying changing into knives formation') or simply Long Fei Zhen (龍飛陣, lit. 'Dragon flying formation'). The formation is designed to inflict maximum mayhem with the rockets to create an opening that allows a trapped unit to break out of encirclement, and is best deployed during cloudy but windless weather.

Long Fei Hua Dao Zhen consists of thirty-two rocket teams armed with ten Fei Long Hua Dao rockets each. These rocket teams are arrayed in a checkerboard-like formation, with eight teams serving as vanguard, twelve teams as wings, four teams at the centre, as well as eight teams as rearguard. Nevertheless, it is not known what purpose does such a specific formation serve other than for firearms safety, as Fei Long Hua Dao has a long enough range that such arrangement wouldn't be necessary.

29 February 2024

Qian Dan Yi Wo Feng (鉛彈一窩蜂)

Qian Dan Yi Wo Feng (鉛彈一窩蜂)

Drawing of Qian Dan Yi Wo Feng in shoulder bag for transportation (top right), and the same cannon when deployed (top bottom), from 'Wu Bei Ji Yao (《武備集要》)'.
Qian Dan Yi Wo Feng is a portable anti-personnel cannon that entered Ming arsenal in the early to mid-sixteenth century. Forged with the same method as a matchlock gun barrel, Qian Dan Yi Wo Feng has a short but wide body that can be loaded with up to 100 lead bullets, yet is light enough to be carried by a single person. It also comes with a small iron bipod, which is used to prop up the muzzle when the cannon is staked to the ground for firing, as it has little to no extra weight to offset its considerable recoil.

Qian Dan Yi Wo Feng is also known as Bai Zi Chong (百子銃, lit. 'Hundred bullets gun'), although it should not to be confused with another weapon of the same name. It may also be the predecessor of Hu Dun Pao (虎蹲砲).

Volley gun version

Drawing of a matchlock volley gun Yi Wo Feng, from 'Wu Bei Ji Yao (《武備集要》)'.
This version of Yi Wo Feng, though still called by the same name, is only inspired by but not directly related to the anti-personnel cannon above. It is actually a matchlock volley gun consists of four to six gun barrels recycled from damaged matchlock guns, modified and bundled together and mounted on a wooden receiver that also houses a matchlock mechanism and a handle bar. The volley gun is mounted on a tripod-like gun mount that allows the gun to be freely traversed and elevated, and each of its gun barrels is loaded with four lead bullets.

1 February 2024

Tian Bing Jian (天兵箭)

Drawing of a Tian Bing Jian, from a Qing Dynasty print of 'Huo Long Jing (《火龍經》)'.
Tian Bing Jian (天兵箭, lit. 'Heavenly soldier arrow') is perhaps one of the most ingenious weapons ever devised before the modern era. It is essentially a huge war kite, seven to eight chi long and three to four chi wide and made of straw mat nailed to a wooden frame, which carries a rocket pod containing one hundred rocket arrows as well as dozens of bombs. Specifically designed for night raid, the rocket pod and bombs on the kite are ignited by a slow-burning incense fuse that gives off minimal light, allowing ample time for the kite to be guided to its target in complete darkness and silence before it begins to rain down fire and chaos, creating a scene that can be easily mistaken for divine judgement (hence its namesake).

A variant of the kite, known as Tian Lei Pao (天雷砲, lit. 'Heavenly thunder bomb'), replaces the rocket pod with a human bombardier. who is a death row convict being forcibly tied to the kite.

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